It’s so good to be back. After being forced to miss round one it was great to pull into the paddock at Whilton on a beautiful sunny morning. Big grids again too. Early days of course but Fraser Brunton had laid down a marker in the Lights with his win at Buckmore whilst Anwar Beroual-Smith was hoping for another strong run in the Heavies. Burning question of the day was surely how reigning Heavyweight Champion Joe Holmes would respond to his rare defeat at Buckmore.
The Road to the Finals.
Richard Allen opened his scoring for the day with close fought win in the first heat. Starting from grid seven he was up to first by the end of the second lap chased hard by Alexander Lammin and Steve Lindley. Lindley went up to second just after half distance and then chased after Allen but Allen held out to take the win with Lindley second from Lammin. Dave Pethers took fourth ahead of Matt Isherwood.
Joe Holmes was keen to put his Buckmore woes behind him and began the day as he meant to go on. Starting from pole he was never headed and claimed the victory by over eleven seconds. The drive of a Champion determined to put his season back on track. SHW Bill Taylor was second heading a close fought battle for the place which saw him hold off the challenge from Anthony Ridd, Callan Sigafoos and Stephen Netting. Ridd took third but Sigafoos received a cone penalty and dropped to fifth behind Netting.
Buckmore winner Anwar Beroual-Smith started from the fourth row for his first heat but was at the front before half distance and took the win over four seconds clear of the veteran Tim Hill. Harrison Wedgbury crossed the line third but lost four places to a penalty promoting Simon Kavanagh to third from Andrew Hicks. Jason Bear should have been next but he too had a penalty which promoted Lee Henderson to fifth.
Adam Wright started Heat Four from the fourth row but two laps in he slipped by early leader and pole sitter Curt Holmes for the lead. Thereafter he drove away to take the win by over six seconds with Holmes second from Lewis Ridd, Jonny Elliot and Chris Alcock.
Heat Five saw a great fight for the win between Joe Holmes and Richard Allen. Allen started from grid thirteen but was up to second by the end of the first lap with Holmes third after starting from grid eight. Allen went by pole sitter Richard Newton for the lead second time around taking Holmes with him. They both immediately began to pull clear. Allen led for a lap before Holmes slipped by. He pulled away but then Allen recovered and began to close back in. He took the lead on the final lap but a cone penalty demoted him back to second and handed Holmes a fortuitous win. Josh Pettit was third from Steve Lindley and Alexander Lammin.
The sixth heat resulted in a dominant win for Curt Holmes. Starting from grid nine he hit the front after two laps and drove away from the pack to win by over five seconds from Anwar Beroual-Smith who had started alongside Holmes but taken longer to work his way up the order. He was some four seconds clear of third placed Lewis Ridd at the flag with Stephen Netting fifth from Lee Henderson.
Alex Pritchard took a hard fought win in Heat Seven. Jonny Elliot led for much of the race before slipping to third behind Pritchard and Anthony Ridd. Pritchard crossed the line a couple of tenths up on Ridd with Elliott third but a multiple contact warning penalty saw Ridd demoted to fourth behind Elliot and SHW Nickolas Walker with Adam Wright fifth.
A rare win for the perennial bridesmaid Chris Alcock in Heat Eight. Starting from grid eleven he hit the front with three to go taking the win almost two seconds clear of Matt Isherwood with Miguel Hall third from Jacob Harris and Dan Underhill.
Joe Holmes made it three from three with the win in Heat Nine beating Richard Allen into second for the second time in the day. This time there was no reliance on fortune. Starting from grid eleven he was up to second before half distance and then ran just behind Allen before taking over at the front on the penultimate lap. Steve Lindley stayed in touch with the leaders and took a strong third with Dave Pethers fourth from Nickolas Walker.
Curt Holmes had to battle really hard for the win in the tenth heat. Starting from grid eleven he was up to third by the end of the first tour. Lewis Ridd led for a couple of laps before Holmes went briefly to the front before dropping to fourth two from home. But he fought back to second which then became first as Ridd got hit by a six place penalty. SuperHeavyweight’s (SHW) Bill Taylor and Lennie Wood took second and third from Steve Bosley and Richard Newton.
The penultimate heat went to Anwar-Beroual-Smith, enough to give him a seat on the front row beside Joe Holmes. His margin was a comfortable three and a half seconds clear of second placed Dan Underhill with Mikey Nichols third from Anthony Ridd and Andrew Hicks.
The final heat went to Adam Wright. Starting from the second row he tailed Pole sitter Chris Alcock for half the race before slipping by. Alcock stayed with him but had to settle for being the bridesmaid once again. Alex Pritchard was third from Jonny Elliot and Callan Sigafoos.
(all drivers in C3 unless otherwise noted).
SHW Stuart Kirk on pole with C2 Daniel Hollinshead alongside. Jonathan Riley and Jaeden Cadogan shared row two with David Wilson and Shane Cotter on row three. Row four saw SHW Kham Bennett alongside James Antwis with Steven Salway and Shane Harman on row five. Next up, C2 Paul Singh and SHW Lee Barrow followed on row seven by Lewis Rogers and Josh Lamorna. Rudy Murphy and C2 Wayne Dunham should have been on row eight but sadly Rudy was out with an injury whilst Wayne went home. Enough said. Toby Sutton and Marcus Narris moved up a row followed by SHW Damian Smith and Richard Pain with Shane Houlihan bringing up the rear. Top four to qualify for the B Final.
Kirk led the pack away with Hollinshead tucking in behind from a fast starting Wilson ahead of Riley and Bennett. Hollinshead was quick to put pressure on Kirk and was quickest of all second time around and taking over at the front. Three laps in though and whilst he led he wasn’t pulling clear. Riley began to pressure Kirk for second with Wilson next but already a second adrift and coming under pressure from Bennett and Cadogan.
The three leaders continued to pull clear at the front with Hollinshead still leading and keeping himself just a few tenths clear of Kirk and Riley. Wilson remained fourth with Bennett fifth and beginning to pull clear of Cadogan. Half distance and Hollinshead was edging clear at the front from Kirk and Riley. Bennett had found a way by Wilson but was over two seconds back from third. But all he needed to do was drive cleanly and keep Wilson at bay to take the final qualifying spot. And that was just what he did. Hollinshead took a comfortable win just over two seconds clear of Riley who slipped by Kirk just beyond half distance. Kirk remained safe in third finishing over four seconds clear of Bennett.
Sadly for Bennett he’d clipped a cone the resulting penalty dropping him to fifth behind the final qualifier Wilson. Antwis claimed sixth ahead of Cadogan from Rodgers, Smith and Harman. Cotter was eleventh and set fastest lap in C3 which established a lap record for the class.
(all drivers in C2 unless otherwise noted.)
C1 entrant Miguel Hall on pole with SHW Adrian Wray alongside. Row two saw SHW Lee Henderson alongside Samuel Bensley followed by Harrison Wedgebury and Andrew Cherry on row three. The evergreen Paul Williams was next up, alongside Jacob Harris on row four. Row five saw Lennie Wood alongside Simon Kavanagh the former having given up on the diet and electing to run in SHW. C3 Richard Pettit shared row six with Josh Pettitt with C3 Benjamin Wooten alongside C1 Jack Cameron-Drayton on row seven. SHW Vinod Harani and C2 Dan Giles occupied row eight followed by Mike Bodnar and C3 Tom Stalker on nine and Lawrence Cheah with Leon Du Preez on row ten. Matt Griffiths and Jason Bear were the final qualifiers from the heats followed by the four qualifiers from the C Final. Hollinshead, Riley, Kirk and Wilson. Two to qualify for the A final.
Hall led the pack away but Wray had a nightmare start and spun to the back of the field allowing Henderson up to second from Wedgebury, Williams, Cherry and Bensley. Two laps in and Hall was edging clear at the front whilst Henderson was having to fend off repeated attacks from Wedgebury who finally got a decent exit from the first turns and moved into second up the hill. Williams was being dropped but locked into battle with Cherry whilst Harris ran on his own in sixth. Hall continued to circulate in the lead but Wedgebury was putting the hammer down and reeling him in. Henderson too had got his head down and was keeping pace with Wedgebury and getting closer to the leader. Williams was still falling back but having a fine battle with Cherry. Bensley was running a second back, a Kart length clear of Neale with Wood and Harani completing the top ten.
Half distance and Wedgebury took over at the front with Hall second but coming under pressure from Henderson. Cherry went by Williams and set about cutting the gap to the leading trio. Williams was still with him with Bensley just a few lengths back. Wedgebury began to eke out a gap at the front whilst Hall was keeping Henderson at bay. The gap back to Cherry in fourth had stabilised so it was going to be all about the top three for the two qualifying spots.
Williams had fallen away from Cherry with Harris a few lengths back but increasing the gap to Bensley. And so they continued in order. Wedgebury really got his head down over the final stages setting the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate tour. Hall was coming under pressure from Henderson but hanging on despite Henderson’s repeated attacks. All of which was allowing Cherry to close the gap. Start of the final lap and Wedgebury was well clear. Hall remained second but Cherry was now only a few lengths adrift of third placed Henderson. Down into Ashby for the final time and Henderson dived to the inside. Hall resisted but ran wide and Henderson nipped by. Both had been compromised and Cherry was right with them both. The last few corners were epic as Henderson defended for all his worth and Hall and Cherry both attacked.
Wedgebury crossed the line over four seconds clear with Henderson second a tenth clear of Hall and Cherry fourth a tenth back from Hall. Great racing. Harris claimed fifth getting by Williams on the final lap. Bensley was next some three and a half seconds back but keeping Neale and Wood at bay. Pettit completed the top ten.
Reigning Champion Joe Holmes on pole then with Buckmore winner Anwar Beroual-Smith alongside. Next up, C2 Curt Holmes, brother of Joe, alongside the always impressive Richard Allen. Row three saw the perennial hard tryer Adam Wright alongside Chris Alcock followed by C2 Steve Lindley and Johnny Elliot. Row five saw C2 Anthony Ridd alongside SHW Bill Taylor. Next up, Lewis Ridd and C2 Alexander Lammin followed by C2 Dan Underhill, having his first Sprint outing for six years, and SHW Nickolas Walker. A pair of C2’S next, a returning Stephen Netting alongside regular Mikey Nichols. Matt Isherwood shared row nine with C2 Dave Pethers followed by two more C2’s Steve Bosley and Callan Sigafoos. Next up, C3 Andrew Hicks. A superb qualifying effort this which guaranteed him the C3 honours on the day. Alex Pritchard sat alongside followed by club stalwart Tim Hill and Richard Newton on the penultimate row with the winner from the B final Harrison Wedgebury and runner up Lee Henderson taking the final grid spots.
Joe led the field up to the line and went early as he often does. Anwar was slow away, as he often is and Curt was immediately into second followed by Adam. End of the lap and Joe was four tenths clear of brother Curt from Adam and Anwar. Richard Allen was next but falling back but running clear of Lindley and Alcock. Second time around and Joe was over half a second clear but Adam was up to second courtesy of a move on Curt at the top of the hill. Curt got off line and Anwar was up to third.
Three down and Anwar slipped by Adam for second but Joe was well up the road and looked to be in command. But Anwar had the bit between his teeth and quickly began to cut the gap. Down into Ogiers fifth time around and Anwar went down the inside of Joe. Joe had to jink right whilst Anwar went by. Hard but fair. Joe was clearly not happy and wagged his finger in admonishment. Adam almost made him pay for his lack of attention, briefly getting his nose in front only for Joe to recover his composure and hang on to second. Curt remained fourth and still in touch with Elliott a few lengths back but a few lengths clear of Alcock. Allen remained seventh but was well off the pace heading a train of drivers, Underhill, Lindley, Taylor and Ridd.
Half distance and the top ten remained unchanged but Joe was beginning to mount a challenge for the lead. Curt found a way by Adam for third but his joy was short lived as Adam fought back up the hill, rounding Curt on the outside and taking a closely following Elliot with him. Curt lost momentum and fell back into the clutches of Alcock.
Three to go and Joe made his move as he and Anwar flashed by on the start and finish straight. Joe was briefly ahead but Anwar had the line out of the corner and up the hill. Joe ran a little wide and Adam, Curt and Elliot all went by. But it all got very messy at the top of the hill allowing Anwar and Adam to break clear. Start of the final tour and Anwar led but Adam was right with him. Curt remained third but was over two seconds back and not a threat. Elliott remained fourth with Joe a disgruntled but resigned fifth ahead of Alcock. Anwar was expecting a challenge from Adam but it didn’t materialise with Adam by his own admission driving the last lap like an old woman which I think is probably a bit unfair on an old woman.
A fine second win in a row for Anwar Beroual-Smith from Adam Wright with Curt Holmes impressing again with his second podium in a row and taking the C2 honours. Jonny Elliot hung on to fourth just holding off Joe Holmes by 0.086 at the flag with Chris Alcock a fine sixth from Richard Allen. Dan Underhill was some four seconds adrift of Allen at the flag but this was a splendid drive claiming eighth overall and second in C2. A very happy Steve Lindley was next with Anthony Ridd rounding out the top ten.
Bill Taylor took the SHW honours finishing thirteenth with second and twenty first overall going to Nickolas Walker and third to Lee Henderson.
Results Round Up.
Top three in Class 1 for the day. Anwar-Beroual-Smith followed by Adam Wright and fourth placed Jonny Elliot. Curt Holmes the winner in Class 2 followed by Dan Underhill and Steve Lindley with Class 3 going to Andrew Hicks after his fantastic showing qualifying for the A Final. Richard Neale and Tom Stalker were second and third. Bill Taylor was again the dominant force in the SHW’s followed by Nikolas Walker and Lee Henderson.
Championship Round Up.
Two wins from two rounds sees Anwar Beroual-Smith heading the standings from Holmes. But it’s not Joe, it’s Curt who also has a commanding lead in C2. Richard Allen is third in the standings with Joe Holmes fourth. Joe was clearly not happy after the Final at Whilton. He might be a little rattled at the moment. I thought he was beaten fair and square but he’ll be back. A Yorkshire lad with his back to the wall will always come out fighting. Form is cyclic, class is permanent. Chris Alcock is fifth overall with Adam Wright next. This is looking like a vintage year. Bill Taylor heads the SHW’s from Nikolas Walker, definitely a driver to watch, and Lee Henderson. Richard Neale heads C3 from Andrew Hicks and Benjamin Wooten.
A great days racing at Whilton with lots of good clean driving. Several drivers though found themselves caught out by the strictly observed rule regarding breaking formation. It might be a good idea if everyone listened at the driver briefing. There is no excuse for breaking this rule and no mitigating circumstances.
Good to report that most drivers stayed away from Race Control. As has been said before it’s out of bounds and complaining to those manning race control does absolutely no good at all. They are concentrating hard on the job in hand. They do not make decisions save for false starts. Yet when driver did enter. To be fair to him he wasn’t shouting the odds but he was quite forceful and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I don’t think I would have wasted so much energy arguing over a single place deduction for a cone penalty which cost a place in the lower reaches of a C Final.
Oh yes, it’s so good to be back!
Words: Steve Gray
Photography: John Patterson